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I closed my eyes, dug my toes into the soft sand, titled my head back, and embraced the sun shining warmly on my face. I heard waves break onto the shore and my mother setting up her beach chair. Seagulls soared above us as I felt mists of the Atlantic Ocean hitting my pale body that desperately needed tanning. I was at a beach in New Jersey with my family for a vacation. I hadn’t been on a vacation sober in years. The Monkey came along uninvited of course, but I enjoyed drowning him in the water and burying him deep in the sand. Oh but, I almost forgot to mention, I was also celebrating my anniversary of eight months in recovery.
Flash back a few years and this would never be possible as an active addict. I was either incarcerated, therefor unable to attend any sort of vacation, and was even considered to some people that I was already on one. Some vacation. Or I would have to scramble around trying to gather enough heroin to sustain me for the trip. While using heroin, and other specific drugs, if a person abruptly stops, their body goes into withdrawal which is far from a pretty sight. Let me make this as clear as possible; THERE IS NO RELIEF FOR WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS, unless you are prescribed certain medicines from a doctor, or use heroin. Moral of the story; no dope equals no enjoyable vacation.
I remember vacations where I somehow managed to bring enough heroin to make it through. Notice how I said “make it through”? Since when do you ever want to “make it through” a vacation? Aren’t you supposed to savor every moment of it and pray for it to never end? In an active addict’s world, vacations are something you have to physically and mentally get through. So even when I had enough heroin to make it through, I was still so concentrated on that drug. That monkey would attempt and often succeed at ruining the entire trip. He threw constant fears and thoughts in my mind; is there a bathroom close by? What if your needle breaks? Do you have cotton? A spoon? A tie? Can your beach bag carry all of this? What if someone walks in on you? What if you get caught by your family? How about just one extra bag today? Wouldn’t this meal taste much better with me? You’re definitely going to be too cold to go in the water and too hot to lay in the sun. Are you insane wearing sleeveless shirts?! A bathing suit too?!
Those were just a small sliver of the amount of thoughts he put in my mind. I remember when I actually had to obey him and it would cause an immense amount of paranoia, guilt, shame, and sadness. Deep inside of me, Ally was there, but Addict Ally was dominant. Ally felt terrible, but Addict Ally could care less and would be sure to accommodate every need of The Monkey. They are an evil pair those two.
This past week I embraced my first vacation in recovery and it was filled with blessings on top of blessings. When I first arrived at the beach, I greeted it by saying, “Hello Jersey Shore! Ally is back! Active Ally is very dead right now! Let me introduce you to The Monkey who I’m sure you remember. Please don’t hesitate to keep him in your ocean and buried beneath your sand.” I also insisted on reminding The Monkey that I had a team ready to back me up if he decided to get out of hand; my mother and step-father.
I enjoyed wonderful restaurants with them, explored the hotel, watched movies until we all collapsed, played games in the sand, and went shopping in different towns. Shopping! Oh how Ally missed shopping! Active Ally did not allow that, AT ALL; too expensive. Yes, even that $5 souvenir is too expensive; that’s one bag of heroin gone to waste!
Ally was in control of this vacation this year. She was able to enjoy every moment. She enjoyed waking up early although she is not a morning person. She enjoyed the long car ride. She enjoyed her sunburn that made her body pink and sore. She enjoyed the feeling of her belly being overly stuffed after a dinner out with her family. She enjoyed it all.
I celebrated my anniversary on this trip, but I celebrated much more than that. I celebrated recovery. I celebrated freedom. I celebrated quality time with my family. I celebrated that monkey being so quiet. I think he knew he had no chance in ruining this.
I made it through my vacation; in recovery. Thank you, God. I am so humbly grateful for You to bless me with this experience.
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